Today the November/December issue of “Scientific American Mind” arrived. I always look forward to its arrival, not only for the articles, long and short, but also for the “Head Games” near the end of each issue. This is a special, tenth anniversary issue with a focus on “The Future You: What’s Next in Brain Health.”
I have only had a chance to flip through this issue, but I was drawn to the section called “Reviews and Recommendations” where there are a couple of pages of short reviews of mobile apps that “help you manage your mental health.” They all sound interesting, and I haven’t tried any of them, but here are a few that especially caught my attention:
“SuperBetter” for iPhone/iPad, which costs $4.99 and is designed to help one work toward specific goals through “gamifying” them. That’s a new word to me, but apparently it means you turn your goal quests into a game in which you create adventures involving, for example, bad guys (triggers or obstacles) or “PowerPacks” of predefined quests. You can even join forces with “allies” from Facebook or from among the other SuperBetter users. Research at Penn showed that “19 people with self-reported depression improved by 17 points on a standardized depression test.” That was after playing for six weeks. Those who did not play the game improved by six points.
“Headspace” for iPhone/iPad and Android costs $95.88/year for the full content. It is a guided-meditation app that “helps users achieve mindfulness, or a nonjudgmental, focused awareness” of their current emotional state. Each session lasts ten minutes and is guided by a former Buddhist monk.
“30/30” for iPhone/iPad is free and is designed for folks who are prone to distraction. It’s a time management app that starts with prompting you to set up your todo lists for the day, including estimated time you expect each task to take. Then you can set a time (perhaps 30 minutes) for the app to count down during which you focus and work on the task with no distractions whatsoever. At the end of that period of time, your get a break of a predetermined time. Apparently research shows that breaking tasks into smaller chunks with frequent breaks as rewards helps people stay on track.
There are about ten apps described in this month’s issue and I’ve only described three. There are also fascinating articles, so you might want to check out “Scientific American Mind” if you haven’t already done so. Enjoy! I plan to.